December 2006

From a grateful Food Pantry director
By Sandy Donovan/Chelmsford Community Exchange

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - Updated: 15:13 PM EST
There are not enough words to express the gratitude and appreciation for the multiple donations of food we received for Thanksgiving. I am sure there were many tears of joy and appreciation at many tables on that day. Over a thousand people enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal due to every aspect of this community and surrounding communities' generosity.

We have been so blessed that this week we were still able to give extra food to the families that came to us for help.

Our numbers are increasing again, including our own community, as the cold weather sets in and people have to make choices between heat and food. Our senior families have increased, too, especially in Chelmsford. Also, families are doubling up or sometimes three are living together to make ends meet in all communities including our own here in Chelmsford.

Our wings are still spreading as we are working with St. Joseph's St. Vincent DePaul Society in Lincoln providing food for 18 families every month. People find it hard to believe that there are pockets of poverty in that community. But many families are living in subsidized apartments with no where to turn except St. Vincent DePaul Society and by us providing the food for these families monthly helps to this free up their money to help in other areas for people just trying to make it day to day. There is no local transportation except for the train so it is hard for people to seek out the necessary help they need as many do not have their own mode of transportation.

I have been working with St. Mary's Saint Vincent DePaul Society for years as they send the families to me for food and I have opened up on our days we are closed for emergency help. I give gift certificates for them to use, too and will be leaving one emergency bag of food for them to take to a family or if someone comes unexpectedly to the door for food, it will be there to give to a family facing hunger with no means to buy food.

We were able to bring food twice to St. Patrick's School in Lowell for 20 families that are taking adult education classes and some of the families with transportation have come to our pantry. The classes end this week and resume in March when we will continue bringing food to those families that need help twice a month.

Hopefully, we are in the process of helping another church and I should be able to let you know about this in the new year. What happens when we open the door and extend an invitation to help with food to free up other resources within a church is that many people that are in difficult financial situations come forward and are so grateful for that little extra money they can save towards heat or some other necessity in their life for the food we provide and the church can help them in other areas, too, otherwise they would have to spend on food vouchers.

There are many pockets of poverty that are invisible because they exist in the suburbs and by outward appearances no one is aware there are any financial difficulties. Again we go back to archaic guidelines of the poverty threshold at $20,000 or less up to 200 percent ? $40,000 ? for a family of four.

I have found this out during this season of giving as I am in the process of getting families adopted for Christmas. Families or companies that would adopt a family then find itself in a pinch themselves but still reach out and help as many as they can afford. Again the picture of the economy is not what it is in real life.

As I have said before many of my families are working two jobs. I will give you an example: A mother raising three boys on her own works at a local supermarket during the day and part time at UPS nights. Her older son watches his two younger brothers when she works at UPS. She waits for her food in line on Friday night and never complains about the weather or anything even though she has to go to work that night and has worked all day. If I see her in line I pull her in so she can get her food and get home to rest awhile before going to work

I saw her a few days ago in Chelmsford and asked her if she would like her family to be adopted. She said, yes! She didn?t want anything for herself but convinced her to get at least one thing as a family adopting another family always wants to get the parent something but her one non-clothes item for her house is pots and pans. She has only a frying pan and one pan to cook with. It was by the grace of God I saw her Sunday as I just came back from retreat and had not been to the pantry for a week that our paths crossed. Her family has been adopted for Christmas. She was ecstatic when I called her last night to tell her. Again, many stories to tell but there?s not enough space to write about all of them.

We could not help all the families that we do in other areas besides food if it wasn't for your generosity. We couldn't buy the special foods that diabetics, people with high blood pressure and other dietary health problems need for their diets. You keep this ?Little Pantry with the Big Heart? beating by your generosity. Actually without your help we would be able to do very little to help families.

For those needing help with food we are now open on Saturdays again for the next six months until May 26, 2007 from Noon until 1:30 p.m. Food pick up on Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and Friday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. is year round. Community drop-off is every Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. We keep them separate to keep it as confidential as possible for families coming for help.

Your hands are very generous and we couldn't do it without your time, talent or treasure! Again I say thank you for making Thanksgiving so special for so many families and I know you will be as generous at Christmas, too; as you have always responded to the need of those facing financial difficulties. If you would like to adopt a family for Christmas or give us gift certificates to give them please let me know before Thursday, Dec. 21.

Monetary donations may be made to Chelmsford Community Exchange, Inc., P.O. Box 394, Chelmsford, MA 01824.

For further information go to our web site www.homepage.mac.com/poptech/Pantry/Pantry.html.
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I can be reached at 978 250-3818 or email vze2gt3p@verizon.net.

May you be blessed like you have blessed others during this season of Advent as we prepare for Christmas.

Sandy Donovan is the founder and director of the Chelmsford Community Exchange.